The man standing beside me as we waited for the lights to change was busy. He was carrying a child - she was about two I would guess. And he was talking on a mobile phone. I could hear enough of the conversation to reaslise it was about work - and important. The green man appeared and we crossed the road. The man continued his phone conversation as he crossed, also taking care to hold his child safely.
It was a picture of modern life. Doing one thing at a time would be bliss. I eat lunch while checking emails, talk on the phone while cooking, ask after my son's day while loading the washing machine. No wonder people are stressed. And that's before considering the news ...
But I was on my way to a little bit of bliss - or, at least, a new experience. Last Christmas I did some of my shopping at local shops, thinking that little, independent businesses needed custom and offered good products. My friend June, who has, in the past, worked as a cello teacher and midwife, is now an aromatherapist running a small, one-woman business. I bought some pots of cream as gifts as well as one for myself and June insisted I enter the free draw she was running.
Just before Christmas I learnt I had won. I hesitated to claim my prize, thinking of the strain the economic crisis puts on small businesses but last weekend June saw me walking past her shop and called out to me. We arranged an appointment for Friday the 13th - not a popular day for customers.
So this morning I walked into Scents of Harmony, ready for my first experience of an aromatherapy treatment.
We'd had some discussion of what treatment I should choose. According to June I could have any treatment she offered. That seemed over-generous and perhaps a little too adventurous. We settled on her February special offer: a strawberries-and-cream facial with hand massage.
I was slightly nervous during the initial questions when June checked my medical history - she has to be sure that nothing she uses is bad for clients. And when she asked what smells I liked I wasn't sure. I thought of lavender and rosemary and said I preferred herbs to citrus smells. She suggested frankinsence with marjoram and, while I settled myself on the couch, she made her preparations. Then she offered music while I relaxed. I chose a classical guitar compilation which began with Air on a G string. As the music played, June started work. And I rested.
I thought it would be strange to have someone else - a friend - apply oils, lotions and a face mask but it didn't seem strange at all. The scents, the music and June's massaging fingers, relaxed me. I wasn't asleep but I was at peace. Briefly I surfaced enough to recognize a familiar piece by Bach but I said nothing and June worked in silence. She'd explained what would happen, so I wasn't startled, even when she lay pads on my eyes as the facemask worked. She oiled and massaged my hands. By this time I was hardly aware of where I was. All the worries that usually occupy my mind had subsided. I thought I couldn't relax more until the scalp massage started. As June touched acupressure points on my scalp, my body responded and found calm. Finally she worked on my neck and shoulders.
It must be years since I've been so deeply relaxed. June gave me plenty of time to recover, first lying down and then sitting up on the couch, with a cushion to support me. Eventually I put my watch on and disovered that the consultation, treatment and recovery had lasted nearly two hours, but I'd been outside time. I suggested lunch, if June had time, and we headed to the Flying Goose cafe a couple of doors away where we enjoyed home-made soup with excellent, tasty bread and butter. Then I floated off down the High Street.
Does aromatherapy work? I used to think it a nice idea - something that might be pleasant but not much more. But it did work for me. My worries seem ... well, absent. And after the oils and the strawberries-and-cream facemask, my skin feels better than it has for months. I think I'll sleep well tonight.